The Walking Dead EP17: Hobo Chuck’s Private Reserve

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jan 16, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 144 comments

Link (YouTube)

Continuing the conversation we were having in this episode: The more I think about it, the more I think that “episodes” is a really good way to approach story games. Like I said, so far the approach to telling a story has been to:

  1. Take one single plot for a movie or television show and stretch it out over a six or eight hour game by just filling the time with lots of gameplay. You play for half an hour or so, then stop for the next nibble of story. This creates that odd, halting pacing that story games have where you spend the cutscenes waiting for the gameplay to resume and slogging through the gameplay to get to the next dribble of story. No matter how masterfully a cutscene is edited and how powerful it is, the emotion of that moment will have faded by the time you reach the next one. The game keeps draining away the emotion and interrupting the gameplay.
  2. Have LOTS of story, by making a very long, meandering plot. RPG’s have been doing this for years. I’m trying to fight these spiders so I can rescue this pig so I can win the approval of Farmer Ted, so he’ll give me the key to the mines, so I can look for the Orb of MacGuffen, so I can scry for the location of the secret lair of Baron Von Badass, so I can rescue princess Damsel, so I can gain the approval of the king, so he’ll let me pass through the Gate of Obstruction, so I can proceed on to the next town of difficult, unhelpful people, so I can eventually defeat the dragon that’s threatening to kill everyone who I now realize kind of have it coming.

This is one thing that I really like about the Mass Effect series. While it’s strongest in the first game, they all have a strong episodic feel to them. You arrive somewhere, you’re introduced to the local problem. You solve it, which also nudges the larger plot forward. Each place has its own building action, peak, and dénouement. This saves the plot from feeling like an aimless quagmire of side-side-side-questing. (Dragon Age was episodic as well, but there was so much combat that the introduction of a problem and its resolution were usually a few game sessions apart for me. It was episodic, but it felt empty.)

What games like Alan Wake and Walking Dead have done is formalized this episode concept. That’s good, although it brings in all these new expectations. Notice how we’re complaining about “episode length” and how Josh disliked the long train ride and puzzle-sidequest that hung on the end of this episode. Now that the game is acting like a TV show, we’re bringing along TV show expectations: We expect episodes to be about the same length. We expect individual episodes to maintain a tone, even if the tone varies between episodes. We expect rising action beats that culminate just before the episode ends. We expect new recurring characters to be introduced at the start of an episode, not in the middle or end. (Unless their appearance manufactures a fake cliffhanger.)

Some of these expectations come from the way people prefer to hear and tell stories, but some of them come from our tradition of having television shows with commercial breaks and fixed timeslots. It will be interesting to see what game designers do with episodic content [insert Half-Life 2: Episode 3 joke here] over the next few years, and where they break from or adhere to episodic traditions.


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144 thoughts on “The Walking Dead EP17: Hobo Chuck’s Private Reserve

  1. Christopher M. says:

    ‘i’, eh?

    1. Shamus says:

      I have no idea what that was about. I titled the episode and posted it. Then when I was fixing a typo the focus jumped from one input field to another and I ended up replacing the title with a lowercase i. Should be fixed now, but that was some strange browser shenanigans.

      1. I think your version of Mr. Hyde decided to show its contempt for everyone by replacing your title with an irrational number.

        That echo of vile laughter just now was only in your head, by the way.

  2. BeardedDork says:

    Growing up in a railroad town, in a railroading family, we were always told it takes at least three miles for a train to stop if it’s going at speed.

    1. McNutcase says:

      But that’s a train. This is a locomotive and one boxcar; FAR less mass to slow down. At a rough guess, they’re not going much more than 25 miles per hour, if that; regular operating speed is almost certainly higher. And Kenny might have been able to spot the trailer from further out than we think he did. It’s at least slightly plausible to me that they could have stopped as needed.

      Plus, there are the demands of plot to consider. “Everyone dies in a fireball because a trained driver couldn’t have stopped the train in time, never mind Kenny being able to” doesn’t make for an enjoyable game…

      1. KremlinLaptop says:

        Also I would think Kenny would be aware that there could be another train on the same tracks so he wouldn’t be running the thing full-tilt anyway.

        The stopping distance for only a locomotive is surprisingly short because there isn’t all that extra mass (And we’re talking about a lot of mass, since the locomotive along weighs well over 100t). You’re still not going to get it to stop on a dime, of course.

      2. James says:

        ahhh i kinda wanna see that happen just pans out see the locomotive heading toward the trailer, then zooms out more and KABOOOM huge explosion and a fireball, fade to black, your now Lilly :)

        mostly to see if shamus will rage so hard he kills someone.

      3. ehlijen says:

        This, it’s all in the mass. The french TGV and german ICE trains go 3 to 4 times the speed of american freight trains and they don’t need three miles to stop (though they do need some distance still), simply because 100m of super alloy/plastic passenger train is less weight then 500m of steel/wood cargo train.

    2. Somniorum says:

      As a person who has actually operated trains (admittedly with a beltpack – a remote control device, which could go no faster than 15mph – but nonetheless operating actual locomotives for Canadian National Rail, including long lines of railcars…)…

      A *train* takes some time to stop potentially, depending on the speed, and also depending on how much air you apply to the train brakes (ie, the brakes that are for the railcars themselves). A long road train, which could be multiple miles long (literally), would be quite difficult to stop quickly at a rather fast speed.

      Locomotives not hooked up to railcars, however, have good braking power, and can stop quite quickly. Their train only had a few boxcars, and virtually empty ones at that… they’d have very little difficulty stopping within a short number of seconds (especially if they did something like blew the air – ie, put the railcars into emergency stop).

      I currently operate trains with a kinda crummy little non-locomotive railcar pusher vehicle (called a “trackmobile”) in a scrapyard… the thing is very weak compared to a real locomotive, but even still I can stop within a few seconds carrying only one empty railcar, and that’s *without* applying air brakes at all to the car itself.

  3. Gruhunchously says:

    I wonder if ‘Ben is a hero!’ will become the new ‘Jar Jar, you’re a genius!’ in the line of unfindable phrases.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      must not make lee pun must not make lee pun

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      The moment Rutskarn said that I had the exact same thought. Though like I said, I can see why Ben had reservations about telling anybody about the deal, on the other hand from the comments made by people who played the whole game I’ve seen he’s going to cause some more mess in the future.

  4. Hoffenbach says:

    It’s a shame Chuck won’t really get to say much anymore. His use as a plot device (or at least an exposition/advice character) is over. I liked his tough advice about survival.

    1. Deadpool says:

      Yes. Chuck is discarded easier than Doug/Carley were… It is quite the shame.

      1. ACman says:

        I know! They write in this interesting hobo character who’s probably seen some shit and then he’s in the series for less than maybe a quarter of an episode.

        He’s actually introduced quite organically. Contrast to Mark, who is barely a character and gets a full episode after he just appears in the interim between episode 1 and 2.

        So tell-tale’s attitude to characters is apparently: cool interesting character? Have him disappear off-screen after 5 minutes.

        Generic stand-in that we’ve clunkily inserted just so we can have someone be eaten? Totally have the player spend half an episode with him… What do you mean we could be getting to know Doug or Carly? Screw that! I’ve come up with this new totally boring guy.

        I know this is the zombie apocalypse and things happen randomly but it’s not the best storytelling.

      2. Indy says:

        At least he buffs up the groups number for the start of Episode Four. And he says a nice Donne reference just before the title splash of that episode.

      3. I was hoping Chuck would stick around a little longer, yeah.

        1. Thomas says:

          It was annoying in that respect, he was one of my favourites along with Mark, also he talks about this alternative plan he has that he’ll tell you in town…

          1. Indy says:

            “There’ll be plenty of time for explanations later.” I bet Chuck’s plan was to raid the stadium garbage.

            1. I’d say Hero Ben ended up being even more pointless, just because he was with the group for so much longer and had a more developed character arc. So you’d think that would be leading up to something.

              If you let him die, you never get to see him stand up to Kenny, so he was just some loser who died. But if you save him, he just ends up dying anyway, in the most contrived way possible. Before he can do something to prove it was worth pulling him up in the bell tower. Either way, the guy’s a much bigger anti-climax than Chuck.

              I’m starting to think after Episode 3, Telltale just forgot how to make a character death meaningful.

              1. Kavonde says:

                Chuck’s death had meaning in that it highlighted how worthless and incompetent Ben is. Ben’s death, meanwhile, highlighted the exact same thing. It’s telling that the only moment throughout the entire series that Ben acted genuinely heroically was when he was begging you to drop him in the bell tower.

                The point, I think, is that some people just aren’t equipped to survive in a disaster scenario. And they’ll like as not bring others down with them. It shows that the Crawford folks, in the end, may not have had it entirely wrong–and that’s supposed to be a disturbing realization.

                That’s what I took from it, anyway. You know, aside from my simmering contempt and hatred of Ben.

  5. Deadpool says:

    You HAVE to cut Clem’s hair. No choice.

    1. Z says:

      This made me sad! I really wanted Clem to keep her long hair, find a way to move the plot forward without having to wield the scissors! But noooo…. Railroad game on literal train tracks fucking forced her hair to be cut. That was unfair, and I resented the game for forcing me to do that.

      In the comments, many arguments and anecdotes have been shared about choice/false choice and when one’s illusion was broken. For me it was this: I did not want to cut her hair. I found out I had two choices: cut the hair and play the game, or don’t play the game.

      Game, you suck.

      1. Indy says:

        At least it shows that your attachment to the characters was strong. You KNEW Clementine wouldn’t want her hair cut and you tried to avoid it solely to keep her happy. That’s a really strong accomplishment on the part of the game. And testimony to the fact that you’re a somewhat decent person, I guess.

        1. Z says:

          I don’t know about decent, but yes: the game succeeded in forming a strong attachment.

          This is the very root of the “games as art” argument. What is art? Art is a work that provokes an emotional response. This game abso-fucking-lutely succeeds at provoking an emotional response, and is therefore very high on the “art” scale. But I hated it when it made me do this (I hated bits before and after, but this was *my* illusion-broken moment).

          But yeah, TWD excels at provoking emotional responses. Between what we’ve seen so far, and what’s still coming in EP4 and 5, there’s no question. This is not a game you play with “mouse and keyboard” or “controller”, it’s a game you play with your glands and lizard brain. Well done.

          Game, you still suck for making me do that.

          1. Dasick says:

            4Chan must be the highest forms of art then, because on the rare occasions I come into contact with their content, it leaves me feeling very strong emotions. I feel deeply moved by the stupidity and hatred of the patrons, I experience blinding rage and vomit inducing disgust and complete despair over the fate of human-kind.

            *Sob*, so beautiful.

            1. Zukhramm says:

              At least they’re nicer than the Escapist forums.

            2. Thomas says:

              4Chan people wrote Katawa Shoujo; the ultimate fate of humanity was bewildered self-extinction as they found the dregs of the race and the inventors of duckrolling were also capable of peaks of artistic wisdom beyond the dreams of many of our most capable writers

              1. I think it’s funny how, in a year with Spec Ops: The Line, a dating sim by 4chan became my pick for GotY.

            3. StashAugustine says:

              4chan would be art if it was fiction- an elaborate satire of Internet culture.

        2. Dasick says:

          We’ve been over this on the past TWD comments section, but feeling pathos for a fictional character doesn’t decide the decency of one’s character.

  6. Spammy says:

    At like 16:30 or so is where this episode when awry for me, when you reach the blockage and they have to introduce Omid and Christa and their dynamic and a new puzzle sequence. It just went on way too long for me, after preparing Clementine I was just ready for the episode to be over, it was a good way to cap off the events of the episode, and then they start and end another plot thread. Of course it’s really conflicting because I like Omid and Christa, I really do, but they made the episode drag and sag for me. While episode 2 may have had the ridiculous plot that falls apart under examination and comes out of nowhere, it had a real sense of structure and knew when to stop.

    1. Thomas says:

      I’m not a fan of episode 4 (I also prefer the episodes to be disjunct instead of running into each other, because it makes their lives seem broader, we don’t see them sleep or have daily routines, but we know those routines happen in the gaps) so I would have really loved it if they’d folded the Christa stuff into Ep 4 instead. Because that section of the game is a beginning of something and it’s strange to have it at the very end of an episode thats concluded so much

    2. newdarkcloud says:

      Indeed. Episode 3 was too long. After cutting Clem’s hair and teaching her to shoot, I was ready for it to be over. At least this next part didn’t take too long.

      And I’m glad Josh mentioned that the old cast was essentially culled. That is my biggest criticism of Episode 3. For moment to moment, I went with it. However, once it was all said and done and I thought about it, I couldn’t help but notice that one episode totally changed the cast.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        A lot happens in Episode 3, which makes it act like a picaresque story. Maybe there’s a deeper metaphor here to the RV and train. Think Huck Finn with Zombies.

        Nonetheless, Huck Finn has chapter divisions, while the game just feels like it’s just not getting on with it.

      2. Steve C says:

        I was ready for Ep3 to be over right after Duck died. Probably the best point would have been after giving a drink to Kenny. The conversation with Chuck reminding you have no plan and without a plan you’re all going to die would be the proper note to end it. Definitely before any interaction with Clem though. The pacing is all off after that point because killing Duck was the climax. How they handled the pacing of Ep3 really hurt the entire series for me.

  7. BeardedDork says:

    So we lose some characters, meet some new ones, exclaim loudly “You look trustworthy, would you care to join us for some adventures?” Then we keep on trucking as if nothing has happened, yeah that’s how things go in our D&D game every few weeks. It’s almost comforting that TWD doesn’t handle it any better than we do.

    1. anaphysik says:

      Interestingly, in the recent tabletop I’ve GMed, the characters of players that couldn’t keep attending were *explicitly* dubbed by the remaining PCs (and even some NPCs!) as being untrustworthy :]

    2. StashAugustine says:

      Just wait until Episode 5, where Lee is saved by a timely barbarian rage by Rorgar.

      1. anaphysik says:

        Man, you need to strike tag that shit!

    3. Indy says:

      We lost our cleric, someone needs to role a new divine. And we lost our useless halfling, loot for everyone!

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Whoah, that’s some cool stuff he had on him… wait, that’s some of MY stuff that he had on him!

        1. Indy says:

          “Hey, I killed the zombie, I get the animal crackers!”

  8. czhah says:

    I don’t know if anyonre else felt like this, but I was initially extremely suspicious of Omid and Christa. Partly it was the glances at the railwaystation, which made me expect an ambush and I guess it was also their light-heartetness, which was kind of out place. I worried that Omid might steal the train and Christa might try to manipulate Clementine into following them.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I was suspicious of them as well.Then I pushed omid and nearly got him killed.Then I felt so bad about doing that,and my suspicions were gone.

    2. Indy says:

      Funny misinterpretation: I thought the official looking van on the bridge was a treasury vehicle and Christa and Omid were trying to break into it. The fact that whatever you got to cut the tanker would do that job as well really made me suspicious. I tried every possible way to investigate the van, which wasn’t many, and decided that they had been trying to break into an empty van. It didn’t even occur to me that the van was a hazmat vehicle. I’m quite possibly the only person who misinterpreted it that badly.

    3. newdarkcloud says:

      I was suspicious of Omid and Christa at first, but felt better once we actually began talking. Hopefully Josh talked to them in the next episode.

      1. I wasn’t suspicious of them per se, but what I was suspicious of was Christa being one of those people who was overly critical–especially on matters of parenthood. I was afraid she would spend the whole time criticizing my guardianship of Clementine and try to take her away at some point down the road. I was glad that did not happen.

        1. krellen says:

          In retrospect, after knowing what we know about Christa (that she’s pregnant, which I’m not tagging because it was spoiled by the hosts already), her concern about people’s parenting skills is highly understandable.

          1. I must have missed that detail somewhere along the line when playing myself (when Shamus, or whomever said something I thought, “Wait, really?”). In either case, I saw potential for things to become very problematic down the road.

            1. czhah says:

              I shamefully missed the “she is pregnant” cue and only picked up on it when she refused to drink. Then again I completely missed most of the cannibalism clues in Episode 2 and suspected that they were eating Walkers rather than real people, so maybe subtle hints aren’t exactly my strong suit.

            2. krellen says:

              Lee states it outright in Episode 5, when crossing the sign to get to the Marsh House; he tells Christa she’s “walking for two”.

              The big clue for me was Episode 4 in Crawford, when she found the expectant mother’s video “hard to watch”.

      2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Only because the game would not let you avoid climbing the ladder did I trust these two -I still wanted a “have one hand on the gun.”

  9. StashAugustine says:

    For all its faults, that episodic feel is one thing ME2 did really well. Each crewmember had a distinct recruitment and loyalty mission, and with some exceptions Why, hello Jacob! Almost didn’t see you there, just like everyone else who played the game they were good, self-contained stories. Helped lessen the impact of the rather inane main plot, too.

    1. Indy says:

      That’s how I viewed Mass Effect 2. 24 Saturday morning cartoons about half an hour each except for the finale which would otherwise be described as double-feature. It would have been really easy for most of the actors, they only had to appear about once in eight episodes.

      1. czhah says:

        Yeah, a lot of the time cRPGs do follow a plot-driven tv-series type formula: the main plot moves forward mainly at beginning and the very end, but stays almost still in the middle with the focus on the plots of individual episodes or side quests. It isn’t exactly difficult to imagine someone implementing Farscape as an RPG, for instance.

  10. anaphysik says:

    Playing with dolls is incredibly manly, so don’t ever dis it again, puny pre-teen Rutskarn.

    1. Dasick says:

      Manly Fact #437

      Once a manly man touches a doll, it becomes an action figure.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        … Any kind of doll? Because I have yet to hear of such a thing as a “sex action figure”.

        1. Isy says:

          I’m not sure how a sex doll would be anything but an “action figure.”

    2. newdarkcloud says:

      I initially read that as “pun-y” and laughed my ass off.

      1. anaphysik says:

        Coincidence? I think NOT!

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          Well you ARE talking about Rutskarn.

  11. McNutcase says:

    I’m not entirely sure Chuck meant “cover my bed with broken glass and bullets” when he told Lee to teach Clementine how to survive, but it seems our Mr. Everett’s middle name is Cuftbert after all!

    1. Hitchmeister says:

      I’m surprised Kenny wasn’t slamming on the brakes earlier. “What the hell are you shooting at?”

      I’d love to hear Lee explaining, “I figured a bit of target practice inside a moving vehicle was a good idea.”

      1. StashAugustine says:

        “With the piles of ammunition we have lying around.”

  12. Isy says:

    I love how in order to proceed in the game, we have to give booze to an alcoholic. Everyone makes a huge fuss over the “hard choices” Lee has to make, and completely ignores all the horrible evils he commits on his way to them.

    I enjoyed Omid and Christa. I felt like they were needed after how bleak the episode was. Christa felt like what Lily should have been: occasionally abrasive but also self-sufficient, useful, and generally a good person. The bit where Lee raises his hand when she complains about history nerds was so endearing.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      As a big fan of Civil War history, I liked that scene a lot.

    2. newdarkcloud says:

      That made me laugh. It also gave me an instant connection to both Lee and Omid (history nerd here).

      1. Same thing here. Yes indeed.

        I actually found myself thinking “Oo! I wounder if I’ll get to talk to Omid about a thing or two!” Alas.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          I’d like to think that in an apocalypse I’d be a guy kinda like Omid. He tries to keep people as cheery as they can be and he can do stuff when push comes to shove.

          1. anaphysik says:

            Honestly, I don’t think Omid does *enough* joking around. (Whichis probably why I, being the kind of person who would make jokes during the zombie apocalypse (hey, humour is a natural coping mechanism! it’s not just that I’m a horrible person!), found Omid to be pretty boring.)

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I love how in order to proceed in the game, we have to give booze to an alcoholic”

      Hey,thats racist!Just because he is a hobo doesnt mean he is an alcoholic.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I…think you were just joking?

        If not, fact that Chuck says he has social issues (including hoboism) stemming from troubles with the bottle pins him as an alcoholic.

        I really felt bad for giving him the booze in my playthrough. It ranked up there with turning the generators off at the dairy

    4. Zukhramm says:

      Yeah, giving Chuck that bottle seemed an odd thing to do to me and I only did it when I found no other way ahead.

      1. Steve C says:

        It’s his bottle. How could you not give it to him? Sure you’ve taken everything else this guy has including his water, his shelter, his map, his scissors and those animal crackers he was saving… but you have a problem on moral grounds giving him back his own booze?

        1. Zukhramm says:

          “Give booze alcoholic” is rarely my first choice for solving any kind of problem.

  13. StashAugustine says:

    Also, it’s nice how the “get Kenny out of the chair” puzzle reads like something from a 90’s Sierra game minus cheap deaths- he’s sitting in your way and won’t move, so you need to go into a different room and pick up a bottle of booze, give it to an unrelated homeless guy, and then go back and invite him for a drink, stealing the object when his back is turned. And yet, it makes sense and you can easily figure it out without any trouble.

    1. Thomas says:

      No! It’s the stupidest puzzle in the game. I was so frustrated by it. It was practically character assassination for Kenny because before that puzzle I didn’t find him, I took the bullet for his son and put it in a gun and used it to shoot his son… and during/after this puzzle I wanted to hit him over the head with a wrench. If they’d offered violence to me I would have accepted it gladly. He’ll talk to you and then he won#t let you lean over his head and grab a map? I wouldn’t even have touched him

      I stayed in that room and kept opening dialogue with him because I wanted to make it clear that if he thought me reaching over and grabbing a map was too much of a disturbance for him, then I was going to stand there and say hello to him again and again and see how he liked that.

      I’m not sure why it took me a while to get. I think I was afraid that if I went into the coach with Clementine in it it would lock me into teaching her how to shoot without showing a map. I also refused to believe that the puzzle solution was going to be more complicated than doing something in the room.

      I actually took 2 or 3 attempts before I realised that no, they were actually going to make this into a ‘puzzle’

      And I’d seen the map at the beginning of the episode and tried to pick it up because it looked useful and Lee wouldn’t let me.

      Why did anyone design this and think it was a good idea?

      1. Dasick says:

        Why did anyone design this and think it was a good idea?

        General attitude towards gameplay. Dismissal as either ‘mindless fun’ or ‘busywork/padding’. It keeps the player busy and fills the time so mission accomplished.

        1. Thomas says:

          I buy that as a reason for puzzles. But for this puzzle? ?

      2. TJ says:

        Yea – another ‘chest-high wall’ moment for me. Just lean over the console and grab the maps! If they are going to put ‘puzzle’ sections in, at least have reasonable solutions for them. I didn’t mind the tanker truck puzzle (despite the TV-physics of it blowing up – I’d be more worried about it heavily damaging the train or derailing it).

        1. Abnaxis says:

          The solution is so much unreasonable as the obstacle itself it. In other words, it made sense that Kenny would get up and get out of the way if I told him there’s free booze on the cow-catcher, but it doesn’t make sense that I NEED to do it in the first place.

          It reminds me of the much-maligned Plot-Driven Door, because it’s a progress-halting impenetrable bastion when it really shouldn’t be.

      3. newdarkcloud says:

        I thought that particular puzzle was dumb as well. The obvious solution would be to ask Kenny to hand you the map.

    2. StashAugustine says:

      Okay, so it appears everyone disagrees with me. I’m still right! I still do give them credit for pushing you in the right direction through talking to Clem and Chuck.

  14. RedSun says:

    Pacing in story feels like an area where Bioware has gotten a lot better:say what you will about DA2’s story, there are no “Deep Roads” in that game. All the combat is delivered to you in 20~40 chunks, and you never go an hour without a dialogue tree. It really helps keep the game from becoming too monotonous.

    Regarding Ben: if this is a game about famial/personal connections and how they affect us, it makes perfect sense that he’s the weakest character, because he’s also pronably the loneliest character in the game. Everyone else is outside his age group, he turns up at a tense time after everyones already bonded, so to speak, and he has a natural awkwardness to him to boot. Noone has any particular attachment to him;if push came to shove, he’d be the easiest character to throw to the wolves. I wouldn’t call him a hero, but his mistakes up to this point are perfectly reasonable.

    1. Indy says:

      You don’t ever get to throw him to the wolves… but you do get to throw him to the zombies.

      Interesting thoughts about why Ben is so easy to dislike. Being in the group only because of proximity isn’t a very endearing trait. Coupled with the fact that he keeps making bad decisions, he really has nothing on his side, doesn’t he? And really, all of his mistakes are reasonable. It’s just how he handles his choices that cause our dislike. Not telling the group about the deal with the bandits was a dick move. And in the future, he’s just trying to defend himself or speaking up at the wrong time. Reasonable, but not likeable.

      And I have to agree with you on the pacing in BioWare games. Deep Roads and the Fade are war crimes.

      1. El Quia says:

        I don’t know how much of this could be a spoiler, so I will hide it all. It’s about Ben. (some Ep 4 and Ep 5 spoilers)Ben means well, yes, but he keeps messing it up way too bad, way too often, for my taste. He puts the group at risk every time he messes it up. AND HE FREAKING ABANDONS CLEMENTINE WHEN YOU ARE ATTACKED BY ZEDS AT THE BEGINNING OF EPISODE 4!

        But still, although I yelled at him for being so careless about Clementine (abandoning her, not taking care of her and she escaping the house and finding you by the river, etc), I kept giving him a chance. Until the part where he takes the hatchet that is very clearly blocking a freaking door. Seriously, at this point in time, you should already know that doors are blocked for a reason ¬¬. That was the last straw for me. That was way beyond stupid and, if after all this time you still haven’t got the most basic points of survival against the zed, you are not a liability, but a veritable THREAT to the group.

        I know that, as someone said in another video, Ben is the awkward teenager that’s way over his head and whatnot. That’s why I kinda pitied him and kept giving him a chance. But 1) every time he messed up, someone died; and 2) he should have grown up, already. Everyone is forced to live a life that no one is really prepared for. Heck, we are demanding from the kids that they grow up, too. We even have taught Clementine how to shoot a gun and told her that she has to shoot to the head, be it zed or human. So if Clementine is forced to accept at her young age the fact that she may need to murder another human, Ben should have already learned not to mess up with blocked doors (or have something at hand to replace it) ¬¬

        1. Indy says:

          Going on the fact that he has noone to confide in (he was fighting himself to tell Lee), he has no real outlet for his emotions, for his fear and depression. Everyone else had this, Ben doesn’t. And since we didn’t know just how afraid Ben is, his actions can be shocking. If he ever gets to release his emotions, it still wouldn’t be good for the group but it might be good for one person other than Ben.

          Given his fear and desperation to do something useful, your most grievous example made sense to me. I can definitely see how each instance is an unforgivable act of stupidity but I just believe that he has to be forgiven for them anyway.

          1. El Quia says:

            Even when each and every mistake of his leads to the demise of someone in the group? I think there is a limit to how far this can be forgiven. It’s not the stupidity that’s the “crime”, but the fact that someone dies every time he mess up. This is not “damn, you spilled the milk”, this is “damn, you created the situation for that guy’s death”. Even in the real world, when we are not in a situation in which each person lost is a blow to our survival chances (and that’s without taking into account the value of human life), we tend to, at least, frown on that and take steps to be sure such a thing can’t be repeated, by imprison the guilty or taking away the chance of doing the same kind of activity from the guilty.

            There is the issue of survival here, and when mistakes cost lives, we HAVE to do something about that. Heck, we make a big deal of mistakes costing lives even when survival is not an issue!

            1. Thomas says:

              But of his mistakes several of them were people giving him responsibility he couldn’t handle and so he shares the guilt with the person who gave them to him. Also one of his mistakes ends up saving their lives, If he’d kept an eye on Clementine the first time round, Molly wouldn’t have joined up with them or offered to help Kenny or Lee when the zombies came round, Lee wouldn’t have stumbled onto the doctor and Omid would have died of infection

        2. Isy says:

          (Ep. 4, Ben)The bit where he fails to save Clementine was a good moment for what the writers were trying to set up. We’re all mad at him because we love Clementine, but this kid has been with us about a week, he’s probably never even held a gun before we met up with him. For that matter, Clem gets a free pass for getting surrounded by zombies (if Ben had clear path to grab her, she had a clear path to run – if not, we’re screaming at him because he’s not fucking Rambo.) Lee states later that getting eaten by zombies was his worst fear; it’s like yelling at an arachnophobe about not killing a swarm of black widows. It really fit the whole feeling of “we’re asking too much of this kid.” In fact, at this point Kenny has been just as big a screw up and liability, despite being an adult – at least in my playthrough, because I didn’t help him murder a man. I suspect that’s why they threw in the bit at Crawford.

          Unfortunately, the bit at Crawford was just bad writing. Sledgehammer to the face, excruciatingly BAD writing. I couldn’t even blame Ben for that. I mean, let’s examine the situation. Ben is still in the hallway when he has the axe. That means it was literally four or five seconds since he took it off the door. Nothing in the hall made any more noise than usual when you encounter him. So in order for this to work, the zombies, contrary to everything we have seen in the game so far, contrary to tried and true tactics we have already used, stopped pounding on the door despite the fact they could still hear us, and then magically knew the second Ben took the axe off so they could suddenly barge in to eat us. Between this and the two-second bandit attack, it’s obvious that God is just setting Ben up to fail, now.

          Then, prompted by guilt of this monumentally stupid scenario, he confesses to Kenny – which probably could have been prevented by Lee putting a hand over Ben’s mouth. Hell, punch him if you have to. But no, Lee sits by and impotently growls, as usual unable to stop anyone from doing anything unless the plot demands it.

          1. krellen says:

            To be fair, if you let Ben live in Episode 4, he serves the useful purpose of (figuratively) slapping some sense into Kenny in Episode 5, letting Kenny die a redemptive death making up for his mistakes instead of a pointless death making up for yet another stupid thing that really shouldn’t have happened.

            1. newdarkcloud says:

              Episode 5 Spoilers

              You think that that version of Kenny’s death was good, when the alternate one involving the walkie-talkie wasn’t?

              I’m asking because I thought that both were pretty weak and just served to get rid of Kenny for no reason.

              1. StashAugustine says:

                Kenny’s death was easily the worst part of Ep 5, especially since the rest was so good.

                1. newdarkcloud says:

                  It just feels entirely unnecessary for the plot. It’s just a side scene to help wipe the slate clean for the next season.

              2. krellen says:

                Once you accept the fact that everyone dies, you’ll realise the only thing that matters is WHY, so yes, I think Kenny dying trying to save Ben is a hell of a lot better than Kenny dying to recover a pointless object that plays no further role in the story (and that is only lost because Kenny is suddenly a clumsy oaf).

                The first scene plays out as far more a moment of redemption than the second, which actually feels a bit like suicide to me.

                1. Thomas says:

                  I approve of Kenny’s actions more in the redemptive version. It’S what triggers the need that feels arbitrary. Kenny dying to save Ben was a good story arc. Ben falling to death because a random balcony gives way was really developer cruelty and made both of their deaths feel unnecessary

          2. Thomas says:

            I’m the same with the Crawford thing. I don’t blame Ben because it was either ridiculously contrived or so stupid that it’s the writers fault

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Reasonable?Not really.First one:Hide the fact that he bribed the bandits from everyone.Meanwhile lee gets to tell at least some people that he killed someone.Plus,depending on your playthrough,you get numerous chances to tell various things,and depending on what you tell the whole group,ben can seem more or less reasonable.If you tell only a few people,then ben is slightly worse than you,because he confides in no one.If you tell everyone,then his mistake really becomes bad.

        Episode 4 He abandons clementine.Ok,that one is reasonable,fear is a normal reaction,and self preservation is a strong emotion.You only hate him for that if you like clementine(which the majority does).

        He lets clementine go out alone.That one isnt all that reasonable.At least come with her.It wasnt that hard of a job to do.But not only did he let her slip away,he didnt even bother to look if she went far or got into trouble.

        And the worst one:He sees an axe blocking a door,inside a building surrounded by zombies,and he just takes it out.That one is just plain stupid.Even if no one died because of this one,I would still seriously consider ditching him after that.

        I really tried with ben,but he just kept doing these stupid shit.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          Agreed. Eventually Ben’s stupidity was too much for me, so (EP 4)when Ben volunteered to die for the group, who was I to say no.

  15. baseless research says:

    It’s not exactly what Shamus wanted, but I present to you now:

    a text-based multiplayer shooter.

    An excerpt of riviting gameplay (it’s actually surprisingly fun):
    you see nothing.
    go north.
    You see “shamu1337” to the east.
    Look east.
    You hit shamu1337 for 20 damage
    You hit shamu1337 for 23 damage
    Shamu1337 hit you for 37 damage
    You hit shamu1337 for 47 damage
    Shamu1337 died.

    sadly, it appears to have depopulated rather badly sincelast time I was there.

  16. Z says:

    Take one single plot for a movie or television show and stretch it out over a six or eight hour game by just filling the time with lots of gameplay. You play for half an hour or so, then stop for the next nibble of story.

    This is exactly how Dragon Age felt, for me. With, as you say, the added sin of breaking setup and resolution across sessions as well. Not good.

    Dragon age was just tooooo much drudgery killing mooks in the unending dwarven caverns or whatever, again and again. Spam them spells! heal them mates! loot them boxes! march to next room and repeat! It got really old.

    Have LOTS of story, by making a very long, meandering plot. RPG's have been doing this for years. I'm trying to fight these spiders so I can rescue this pig so I can win the approval of Farmer Ted… You solve it, which also nudges the larger plot forward.

    THIS I like. Sure, should be better written than the spiders, pigs thing, but that multiple-objectives for multiple-reasons thing can become very interesting if it’s well done.

    Intricate, convoluted plots are awesome to behold when they are well done (like, say, in Brazil, Babylon 5, Twelve Monkeys, or more recently Cloud Atlas).

    Combining plot complexity with character development and gameplay execution is highly non-trivial, and games rarely rise to these heights… sometimes they do (Jade Empire and the KOTORs come to mind, may there be many more), but most of the time at least one of the legs limps.

    1. Dude says:

      I don’t think Cloud Atlas, the movie (not the book), is really a convoluted plot as much as it is a number of different plots that are connected so loosely they might as well be Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.

      Well made adaption, however.

      1. Z says:

        Fair enough, but some of the subplots were pretty convoluted on their own (composer, rebel-spy, whatnot). Still the point stands: convoluted plots are fun! …if they are done well with attention to depth/characterisation/gameplay/whatever.

        Since you brought it up, I’d like to hear people’s opinions of good movies/games for a plot-junkie like me. I enjoyed Jade Empire, and U-Turn, and The Machinist (the thin-batman movie), and Planescape:Torment, and Babylon 5, and both KOTORs, and even the much maligned but still enjoyable Wild Things…

        Are you a plot junkie? If so, what games/movies would you recommend?

        1. Thomas says:

          Memento, the Following and the Prestige all by Christopher Nolan.

          Seriously if you need a film with intricate plotting, Memento is always the answer. It’s about a man with antirograde amnesia (the more common sort, where you have memories but can’t form new ones) so basically whenever he loses attention on something he forgets it. And the film is structured so you start with the last scene first and move backwards, so you know where he is, but likewise you don’t know how he got there.

          ..and every single scene completely changes the meaning of all the scenes before it. You come up with an idea and the next scene puts it in a whole new light and the next one changes all of that…

          1. Dude says:

            Those Nolan films are more editing masterclasses than marvelous plot machinations, if you ask me.

            The editing is truly astounding in them, and I feel it reaches its pinnacle in Inception, the same way, I think, Kubrick reached his pinnacle of visual metaphors and emotional resonance in Eyes Wide Shut, but I don’t think their plots are any more intricate than, say, Looper.

            I’ve only really found truly astounding plot machinations in books. I suggest House of Leaves. Everything in it oozes into everything else.

        2. Daimbert says:

          Sadly, I tend to be behind the times, but the games that stood out to me in terms of good plotting — although not necessarily in terms of convoluted plotting — are:

          Persona 3
          Persona 4
          Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant
          Fatal Frame (the whole series, basically)

          And also Suikoden III, which is a very interesting one because it uses a tri-view system, where you watch three different characters in a story that relates to all of them, and where you can see the same events from multiple sides. They also add in a fourth optional one which links up as well. You can watch the stories in any order you want, and the order changes how you view the rest of the story. It also has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard in a game, which is also one of my weaknesses.

          But all of these are PS2 games. If I had to pick a more recent game, I’m thinking Catherine but also Persona 4: Arena, both PS3 games.

          EDIT: Although, admittedly, the latter gets that mostly because of the deep, emotional plot that’s inside a fighting game, even though it’s a little short and thin if you’re thinking “RPG”.

          1. newdarkcloud says:

            I have played all of those put Fatal Frame. When you think of them, they ARE kind of episodic in a sense.

            Persona 3/4 separate themselves in roughly one month chunks. Each chunk of the story has a small mini-plot that also keeps the overall plot going forward. There are also many different side events that serve to lighten the overall mood of the game. It’s very well paced and quite cleaver when you think about it.

            The same can be applied to Shadow Hearts, (I miss that franchise. It’s a shame it is effectively dead.) with the exception that it isn’t so rigidly enforced into small month chucks. It’s more along the Mass Effect line of go to one place, solve mini-story and push plot along, go to next place.

            Lots of RPGs do this and it generally works.

            1. Daimbert says:

              I think that this would make the idea of “episodic” a bit too broad. I can see saying it for the Personas because of the fact that they actually divided their story up into explicit chunks that you could look forward too and that had endings to their arcs, but I don’t think it really true because in that case the episodes weren’t actually divided up in terms of either plot developments or time. In P4, I finish the dungeon in the first two days and spend the rest of the time doing S-links, which means that I get the story push and finale at the beginning of the time and then spend tons of time waiting for the person to come back to school to get the next little bit of story, and then have to wait again until the next victim is tossed in. Add in that you’ll have various events in-between, and that one month compartmentalization isn’t that at all. In P3 — which I’m in the process of replaying — as you go along the full moon events often aren’t important at all to the on-going plot, which splits the episode endings (Strega is a good example of this). Again, adding in critical plot events in the middle of the month and it isn’t really a month.

              For Shadow Hearts, again there’s no set time or notion for plot events, and so it’s a story with events, not with episodes, in my opinion. As for the franchise itself, I think that it was “From the New World” that killed it; I managed to finish the first two, but cannot bring myself to PLAY that one.

        3. Bubble181 says:

          Depending on your political leanings you make like or hate it, but the West Wing was quite good at that; especially somewhere mid-series. Season 1’s a bit too soapy perhaps, and 6 and 7 got confused. In between, lots of interesting plot evolutions and lots of unintended/horrible consequences of good (or well-meaning) choices and such.

    2. Dasick says:

      Sure, should be better written than the spiders, pigs thing, but that multiple-objectives for multiple-reasons thing can become very interesting if it's well done.

      A story is fine if it requires convoluted plot-points, but I think what Shamus is referring to is just taking a simple(r) story and injecting busywork to pad it out is bad, but that’s what storygames tend to do because it’s easier, and less expensive.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        I though he was referring to those kinds of stories that essentially turn into one giant fetch quest. Like the legendary real world example of the red paperclip. You need item A, and some guy has it but want item B in a trade. If this process goes on for too long, it becomes irritating.

        1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          I would think the ideal long story-game would either resembler a TV series more -think Babylon 5 -or would make copious use of the “Need a Bigger Warrant” trope. TVTropes Warning.

  17. Dude says:

    When you guys asked where Lee learned how to shoot, Kenny said in the corner, “Don’t they all know how to shoot? What, I’m not racist!”

    1. El Quia says:

      Well, during episode 2 (I can’t remember exactly when) Lee says (or you have the option to make him say) that Lily keeps you all training back at the motor inn. Now Clementine, on the other hand, that single training session turns her into a crack shot! She is lethal with that gun! :P

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        His instructions aren’t bad, but I’d have liked him to also include “All guns are loaded, even the ones you just unloaded,” and “never point the gun at anything unless you intend to destroy it.”

        Everything else you can figure out with time and practice, but one accidental discharge can ruin your day.

  18. ClearWater says:

    Gah! Missing closing bracket. Parse error! OCD-failure imminent.

    (The Dragon Age comment.)

    1. Duneyrr says:

      I’ll fix that for you: ])}

  19. Daimbert says:

    The game that is the most explicit about having an episodic structure is Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, which is pretty much an interactive anime. You always start with an intro, then some wandering around time to build relationships, and then a big fight with mechs, and then an ending, which leads you to the next episode.

    Catherine on the PS3 is similar because it’s spread out over various nights.

    That being said, I think games like the Personas weren’t really episodic — even though the plot is divided by events — and yet worked really well at delivering the plot. Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant also worked well. But these are more linear games, where the plot proceeds and you follow along with it. If you want to give the illusion of choice and an open world, you will get stories like the ones you suggest. As an example, the first time I really played Morrowind I ended up stumbling over the main plot … while looking for a shop. That’s precisely the sort of “Doing things and then moving the plot forward” idea, and it’s why in terms of story Morrowind is not at the top of my list.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I meant Oblivion here, not Morrowind. Morrowind is the game that drove me to a psychotic rage and attacked a guard, died, and never reloaded.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        I tried Morrowind. But I can’t play it. It’s too annoying to me.

      2. Cuthalion says:

        But… but… it had houses made from THE SHELLS OF GIANT CRABS!

        Honestly, the only issue I really had with Morrowind was the fact that it didn’t really explain the whole weapon length and chance to hit issues… so I would get really confused at first why I couldn’t seem to predictably hit mudcrabs and instead got killed by them. There were also a couple quests with terrible instructions. But I still enjoyed it. I’m kind of right in the demographic for it though: I like open world games where I can do all sorts of crazy stuff *cough*enchanting*cough* and forget about the main story entirely.

        1. Daimbert says:

          In my case, the main plot was hidden too well. Having no idea what I was supposed to do, I hopped on a Silt Strider to … somewhere, still had no idea what to do, puttered around for a while, got bored, attacked the guard, died, uninstalled the game.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I think I was about clementines age when I first shot a gun.Though I never shot a gun at anything(I did shoot a crossbow at targets though).It was really loud and jerky.

    As for who is the cool one:now that you dont have Mumbles,Chris is your cool one of the group.But that is only because of the beard.

    1. Indy says:

      Living in Australia, I don’t think I’ll ever get to fire one. They’re not utterly prohibited, it’s just that there is no gun culture here whatsoever. Unless I volunteer to go on a pest hunt. What’s everyone’s favourite: kangaroos or camels?

      And I agree, without the beard of Mumbles, the beard of Chris will have to do.

  21. Sleeping Dragon says:

    The thing I dislike about the episodic form (as in being released as individual episodes, not what DA did) is that I can’t take it at my own pace. The episodes may break off when I’d like to continue, or drag on when I’d like to pause. Even if experiencing the game once it’s all out there are often changes to pacing and breaks to the flow of the story if you play the episodes back to back.

    On the other hand I can see some pretty bright future for this kind of thing. It offers the game in more manageable chunks for people who don’t want to/can’t invest that much time into it, it allows the creators more flexibility with pacing and mood, it is open to last minute changes based on player response…

    1. Torsten says:

      Episodes dragging on is a problem Telltale has had on a lot of their games. Especially The Walking Dead suffers if you are unable to play the whole episode through in one session. But at the same time they are a little too long to play through at one go. Not so long they made me stop playing, but long enough that I started to feel fatigue.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Sakura Wars: So Long My Love tended to have the same problem, especially if you hit an action sequence that you had to retry. It’s more fun played as a sequence of episodes, but if you run out of time or want to continue on you’d have to stop in the middle, which can be jarring.

  22. Thomas says:

    Omid and Christa felt a bit too nice to me. They were very clearly being set up as the responsible ones all the way through and its just jarring after having Kenny/Lilly/Larry

    1. TJ says:

      Omid came off as nice, but Christa immediately raised my dad-protective-instinct. She assumes right off the bat that you can’t properly take care of Clem, and I didn’t want to leave her alone for fear that they might take off – kind of a slightly-more-sane version of the psycho lady from Ep. 2.

      I did like them by the end and I think Christa developed well as a caring person. If Season 1 is a zombie-infested Dad-simulator, I really hope that Season 2 is a mom-simulation – PC Christa, with Omid and Clem, with the debate of whether you bring another child into the world, and how to be safe enough to do so.

      1. Thomas says:

        Even the conflict with you, to me that just seems like more proof of her niceness/reasonableness, she’s suspicious of the man looking after a surrogate daughter and rightly thinks hes too attached to prepare her properly for the world I felt like they were being written to take over when everything went to pieces. Which is basically what happened

        I mean basically the only conflict they have at all with people is they think you’re not looking after Clem enough. Compare that to anyone else in the game =D

        1. TJ says:

          Exactly – she got me thinking, “Maybe I’m not the best person to be watching over her.” I mean, it’s only chance that Lee turned up when he did. Conflict between emotional attachments and doing what’s best – good stuff.

          What happens if you don’t take Omid and Christa with you in Ep 5? How do they leave? If I didn’t think there was even a chance that Clem could meet up with them, the end would be even MORE depressing!

      2. newdarkcloud says:

        I think the plot you propose for Season 2 is likely what is going to happen.

        At the very least, I hope it is.

        1. Thomas says:

          I actually don’t. I don’t want to meet Clem again, not for a hole game because we’re getting to the stage where something bad would have to happen to her or it’d feel weird. And if we had Omista without Clem it would make me find a way to burn the game further than the immediate uninstall I’ve already done (can you depurchase a game from Steam?)

          1. McNutcase says:

            It’s possible, I did get a refund for this game, but you have to argue with their customer support guys quite a lot. You might have better luck asking if you can have it turned into a giftable copy and then working out a trade with someone who wants it.

            1. Thomas says:

              I wouldn’t want to get my money back, because it was an interesting game and I’m glad I played it but if it turned out Clem hadn’t even got to the safe people then thats just way too far into the dark with me and I would want to reject it some how, and I already uninstalled it as rejection of it going too dark already

  23. Wedge says:

    I’m kindof two minds about Ep 3–On the one hand, it did feel a bit over long, and it was kindof jarring to have a whole other encounter after the episode peaked emotionally. On the other hand, I kindof liked meeting Omid and Christa–since they seem to be genuinely nice people, it acts as kindof a pick-me-up. It felt good to have this bit of good luck at the end of the shittiest day ever.

    1. Isy says:

      Part of me agrees with people about pacing, but a bigger part of me doesn’t. I’m not sure some people would want to still play the game if it ended on the note of having lost a full half of your original group. The end of this episode just felt so good after everything that had happened before it.

  24. Abnaxis says:

    As a side note, if you tell Clementine her parents are dead here she does completely bust out in tears and it hurts.

    Nonetheless, I did it and I would do it again, because to me abstaining because “it hurts” is trading future pain for present comfort. She’s not going to find her parents in Savannah, and it’s dangerous to try. It’s a painful truth, but it’s a truth that isn’t just going to go away if you humor her. I was disappointed that no matter what you say, Lee caves in that respect.

    I always saw it as representative of one of those things you hate to do as a parent, but has to be done if you want your child to be healthy (similar to setting boundaries, painful doctor’s visits, etc.). Not telling her always seemed like the easy way out, to me.

  25. Paul Spooner says:

    I was struck by the “emotion inertia” comment. It seems like this kind of “need an episode to get over it” thing has become common with tv shows, but doesn’t really reflect life. Sure, emotion has some inertia, but even when you’re really depressed you can have hours or days of joking around or fun times. And, after a while, these deviations can set a new mood. I think this kind of “life goes on” continuity that keeps pushing even through events with different emotional gravity is healthy.

  26. Velkrin says:

    The “Ben/See ya” bit reminded me of the Shepard. Wrex. video.

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